There is, a hop, skip and a jump from St Tropez, something of a secret haven that has been known to the initiated for decades – Le Mas de Chastelas.
Discretely tucked away from the perennial traffic down below its gated entrance, it feels like an enchanted domain with its mature gardens and parkland, fabulous pagodas, pavilions, patios and secret little corners that one happens upon just walking around.
In fact, being left to explore in peace is easily one of its greatest virtues. The staff are smiling and helpful, but as unobtrusive as you would want them to be if you have come here to escape from the hustle and bustle outside.
Most of your stay will likely be spent on the terrace, so this bears describing in some detail.
The terrace is really an extension of a great hall, itself a series of rooms, alcoves, art-covered walls, an indoor bar and hallways leading to a dining area and the stairway to the bedrooms.
If the weather permits it (and this being the South of France, it almost always does), you will complete your check in with a glass of welcoming wine or Champagne, sitting by the pool which is central to the terrace.
Surrounding it is a very mature garden that gives the impression of hardly containing its exuberance and a series of quirky statues.
The outdoor bar has greenery cascading around its sun canopy and further to the side are the well shaded breakfast tables, set among trellises and stone flower pots aplenty.
If it is chilly in the mornings, discreet heaters under the canopies calibrate the temperature at breakfast. Breakfast is buffet-style – a feast of fresh local produce and some of the best breads you are ever likely to taste.
The bedroom suites are old French farmhouse style – well oiled terracotta floors, muted whites, separate loos, period bathrooms and large comfortable beds.
The windows (or terrace if your suite has one) open to the fabulous gardens, flood-lit at night, and a delight to wake up to in the morning.
Something of a legend in St Tropez, Chastelas has played host to a bevy of famous actors, musicians, artists, including Claude Berri who filmed Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu there in his film Je Vous Aime, and Serge Gainsbourg who played the piano for Jane Birkin.
You can spend hours looking at photographs of all those who have loved Mas de Chastelas and given it the special stardust that is an indelible part of its DNA.
The hotel has its own Jack Nicklaus designed golf course, as well as tennis courts and a dedicated private shuttle.
Its rich history notwithstanding, the Mas de Chastelas doesn’t rest on its laurels. More recently, it has seen the addition of a Palladian Villa, in tribute to the Italian renaissance architect theorist Andrea Palladio and a contemporary Italian-styled Tuscan Villa, boasting open-concept en-suites and hanging beds. The hotel has a well-deserved 5-star rating and is listed in the Michelin Guide with a three-roof rating.
A charming and very stylish alternative to the multitude of hotels on this most famous of peninsulas in the South of France, the Mas de Chastelas is the well-known secret of “the beautiful people”.